The PA-28-235 series began in 1964 with the Cherokee 235. One major selling point that dealers like to stress is that the aircraft can almost carry its own weight in useful load. Actually, it carries more in some configurations.
The 1973 model was dubbed the Cherokee Charger. The major alteration that year was a stretch of the fuselage, giving passengers an extra five inches of legroom. The useful load doesn’t equal the aircraft’s weight on this model, though that’s hardly worth mentioning when you consider what it carries, a whopping 1450 pounds. In case you’re wondering, that’s full fuel, 200 lbs. of baggage, and four passengers at just under 190 lbs. each.
The 1974 model was designated as the Cherokee Pathfinder. The biggest change was a redesign of the windows to reduce outside noise. One Cherokee pilot said, “as one who has spent more deafening hours behind the yoke of a Cherokee 235 than I can unclog my head to remember, I can say that the soundproofing option Piper offered this year is one no Pathfinder should leave the factory without. Cabin noise is cut considerably, and a comfortable conversation can be had at 75% power” (Bill Wilson, AOPA Pilot, May, 1974). Performance and load carrying capabilities were not significantly changed on this year’s model.
While the 235 models lose a little something in speed, as compared to retractables in the PA-28 series like the Arrow, their exceptional load carrying capacity and long-range capability more that make up for it.
Wilson continues, “but there are drawbacks to the 235. A perennial complaint is that the airplane’s Lycoming O-540 is brutal on fuel consumption. A saving grace is that the engine is set up to burn 80/87 octane, making the 235 series’ final cost per mile surprisingly acceptable. If you get into a pinch, the engine happily guzzles 100 octane. Also to consider, with 84 gallons sloshing around in the aircraft’s four tanks, a genuine effort is required to fly manually on long trips. If you plan on cross-country flying, an autopilot would be a smart investment. The 235s fly somewhat differently than smaller Cherokees. They require a bit more speed and power in landings, and the pilot should be cognizant of the fuel weight from the extra 34 gallons aboard. Otherwise, the exceptional performance in climb out, short-field work, and cruise speed are obvious benefits of those two extra cylinders up front.